Charles and Bettie Birthright Home

109 S. Main Street
Clarkton
Dunklin County

For more than 40 years this house was home to Charles and Bettie Birthright, former slaves who achieved economic independence and prosperity while building close ties with the families that had held them in slavery and the predominantly white citizenry of Clarkton and Dunklin County. From modest beginnings, this barber and seamstress amassed substantial wealth from highly successful commercial and farming operations. By 1901 Charles was among a group of men cited in the local press as contributing to “Dunklin County’s greatness.” The couple used their growing wealth to benefit the community, investing in its economic development and donating funds to construct the 1884 and 1911 Clarkton school buildings. After their deaths, their estate went to Stillman Institute (now College) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, constituting the single largest charitable contribution to the college until the 1980s. A building on campus, Birthright Auditorium, is named in their honor. Though not civil rights activists in the common definition of the phrase, the couple’s economic and civic contributions to Clarkton and Dunklin County contradicted the popular image of blacks as indolent, undisciplined and unworthy of the full rights of American citizens. The Birthrights represent an aspect of history rarely studied in Missouri or the United States—African Americans who were well respected and accepted members of the larger white community during a period when racism was the social norm. The house has suffered from extensive termite damage, as well as structural problems from recent earthquake activity. The Clarkton Historical Society feels that this listing will allow the public the opportunity to learn of the importance of the Charles and Betty Birthright House and that their story will be able to reach an audience of supporters that are dedicated to the support of the home and to the development of the site into an interpretive site for educational purposes.

Listed in 2012.


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